The “Spirituality of Generation Y” day at LICC was a great opportunity to hear from Bob & Sylvie Mayo (Making Sense of Generation Y) and Phil Rankin (Buried Spirituality), the authors of the two reports featured. The day developed the dominant themes of these two reports and looked forward to where this may be leading in terms of our work with young people.
Rather than post my own report of the day you could check out a couple of other blogs that have done so:
I think it’s important to bear in mind that, as Bob Mayo said on the day, this research is just a contribution to an ongoing conversation, not the final word. Bob acknowledged the limitations of the MSGY research, but I find his current conclusions make sense of and go some way to answering my own questions about the spirituality of the young people we work with. More work needs to be done, hence The Nazareth Project which will explore the role of faith based youth work in promoting Christian and spiritual awareness among non-churched young people – in short, what kind of difference are we making?
In the meantime, here are some of the things that got me thinking…
Is RE the main source of both information and disillusionment about Christianity among young people? Phil Rankin concludes from his conversations with young people that most of the information they have about Christianity comes from RE lessons in school, rather than the media or direct involvement with church. He suggests that RE lessons are having a disproportionate effect in putting young people off Christianity because the nature of a lesson is absolutely counter to any process of spiritual development that leads to faith – even when good RE teachers try their best to get young people to explore spirituality it’s still a lesson and it usually all leads to an exam. This has huge implications for schools workers (like us) who are involved in RE lessons.
How can we (specifically us, here, me and the team!) create more opportunities for young people to discuss spiritual issues, picking up on Phil’s excellent example in his 60+ conversations around the country?
Whatever your view on the whole formative and transformative spirituality discussion, I want to work harder at creating opportunities for young people to engage intentionally with spirituality. We have experimented with this in a number of ways, including, in December 2004, opening a ‘prayer place’ in an empty shop in the middle of the town – something I hope we can do again. It’s a privilege to work closely with the Colchester Boiler Room Community as they get 24-7 prayer into the public space. We also will be introducing some opportunities for reflection and spiritual development with our Wednesday afternoon group, who now, to our amazement, call themselves “Holy Joe’s”.
There was a strong emphasis on the way young people create their own spiritual meaning from the components of life, experience and popular culture and at one level I’m really comfortable about this. In our approach to mission we work hard to avoid hyping, coercing or tricking people into making a decision for God that they do not understand. I believe that one of the most precious aspects of our God given human nature is free will and especially the freedom to choose relationship, including with God. But in all of this current debate I’m still working out where Jesus instruction to “go, make disciples of every culture, teaching them to obey everything I have taught you…” fits in. The book of Acts and of the epistles suggests we have some important news to contribute to anyone’s process of spiritual discovery. Then there’s the pneuma, the Wild Goose, the Holy Spirit. Not so much the big stadium hype-fest “bless you, bless you, we all fall down” type of thing, but the experience of a person’s spirit being touched by The Spirit or of the various supernatural gifts bringing God’s ‘now’ word or activity to someone.
But that is in no way to diminish my interest in the current discussion. Indeed, with our current survey of youth spirituality in schools we are an active part of the discussion. And that gets me wondering… in a way, all this research may have another, more personal, outcome in the awakening of spiritual questions and interest in the young people surveyed. As Phil Rankin discovered, just opening the conversation got young people talking about spiritual realities. Asking the questions gets young people thinking. Perhaps one of the reasons they’re not seeking is because no one’s yet asked them the right questions – and given them space to think and perhaps ask their questions of us.